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Helping a Parent With Mental Illness: A Guide

For so many years, your parents guided, supported, and cared for you. But lately you’ve been noticing signs that they’re the ones who need assistance. In today’s post, we discuss ways to help parents with mental illness. 

If you have a parent struggling with mental health concerns, reach out to Peachtree Wellness Solutions today at 770-202-1274. Our dedicated admissions team can help you or your parent get back on track today.

Signs Your Parent Has a Mental Illness

The first step in helping parents with mental illness is recognizing that they are struggling. 

Given the broad scope of mental health concerns that can affect older adults, it would be virtually impossible to list every potential symptom on a single post. But if you are concerned about your parent’s psychological well-being, here are a few signs to be on the lookout for:

  • Significant changes in their mood, attitude, and energy level
  • Uncharacteristic expressions of anger, aggressiveness, or irritability
  • Changes in their eating habits, and resultant weight gain or loss
  • Difficulties focusing, concentrating, or following conversations
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, topics, or other pursuits that used to be very important to them
  • Abrupt changes in their relationships with family and friends
  • Frequently mentioning death and dying
  • Neglecting their appearance, grooming, and hygiene
  • Altered behaviors, such as suddenly going on spending sprees or acting recklessly
  • Exhibiting much greater or much lower confidence and self-esteem than usual

In general, any noticeable changes in appearance, behavior, or self-expression can be signs that a parent has developed a mental illness. 

How to Help Parents With Mental Illness

One of the many challenges of having parents with mental illness is determining how you can best help them. Mental health concerns are serious conditions that often require comprehensive professional treatment. This means that you can’t solve the problem all by yourself. But you can play a valuable role in connecting your parent with the care they need. 

Educate Yourself

If you know what type of mental illness your parent has developed, take the time to learn about its causes, symptoms, and effects. If your parent hasn’t yet been diagnosed, research the symptoms they have been exhibiting. The more you understand about what your parent is going through, the better prepared you will be to offer meaningful, actionable support.

Explore Treatment Options

Your efforts to educate yourself about your parent’s mental illness should also include collecting information about treatment. Find out what types of services have helped others who struggled with similar concerns, and identify providers in your area that offer the care your parent needs.

While you’re doing this, remember that there is no such thing as a “perfect” treatment program or a technique that works for everyone. Your goal should be to find resources that appear to align with your parent’s needs, as well as with their strengths and preferences.

Talk to Your Parent

This can be difficult, but it is extremely important. Share your concerns with your parent about the symptoms they have been exhibiting. Emphasize your love and support, and don’t shy away from talking about treatment. It’s unlikely that one conversation will lead to your parent agreeing to seek treatment, so approach this discussion as the first in a serious of conversations.

Depending on the nature of your parent’s mental illness, they may respond with denial, resistance, or even anger. When you prepare ahead of time for these types of responses, you can prevent the discussion from descending into an argument.

Listen to Your Parent

Make sure that your discussion about your parent’s mental illness is just that: a discussion. This isn’t the time for a lecture or an ultimatum. You need to give your parent the opportunity to respond (even if, as we suggested in the prior section, that response isn’t what you hoped to hear).

You can visit reputable websites and consult with professionals about parents with mental illness – but the best way to understand what they are going through is to observe how they act and listen to what they say. Their willingness (or reluctance) to talk about their symptoms or accept your information about treatment can inform your next steps and shape future conversations.

Get Help for Yourself

The impact of parents with mental illness extends far beyond the individual who has the disorder. When your parent struggles, you will be impacted. If your parent has a partner, other children, and/or close friends or family members, they are likely to be affected as well. If possible, get a small group of these other people to help you in your efforts to keep your parent safe and convince them to get help.

If you’re not already seeing a therapist or counselor, you should also seriously consider making an appointment for yourself. Speaking with a professional can help you protect your own mental health as you help your parent with theirs. Remember: You can’t provide maximum support to someone else if you are neglecting your own needs.

Find Mental Health Treatment in Atlanta, GA

Peachtree Wellness Solutions offers a full continuum of customized care for adults who have been struggling with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses. Treatment options at our mental health center in Atlanta, Georgia, include residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient programming. At every level of care, your parent will receive personalized service from a team of skilled and dedicated professionals. 

Working together, we can help your parent achieve improved health so they can enjoy the best possible quality of life. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment for your parent, please visit our admissions page or call us today.

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